Multi-talented singer, writer, producer and actor Bradd Marquis utilizes his soulful tenor to captivate and inspire audiences from the very first note he belts out. Hailing from a time in music when soulful crooners like Marvin Gaye and Teddy Pendergrass monopolized the airwaves, this gifted vocalist, who is often compared to these legends, has honed in on their sounds and given life to today’s music. As a result, Bradd has graced sold out stages all over the country, performing his signature classic tribute dedicated to soul icon, Sam Cooke. Possessing a tone, passion, and purpose that separates him from the legion of today’s male vocalists, Bradd has piqued the interest of all whom witness the magic he brings to the stage.
RnBJunkieOfficial caught up with Bradd Marquis for an exclusive interview to discuss his tour The Music of Sam Cooke - A Change Is Gonna Come. A fantastic new show depicting the life and music of one of America’s most iconic and talented performers, the legendary Sam Cooke. As well as, his rendition of the Bob Dylan/Sam Cooke song "Blowin' In the Wind".
TERRANCE: First, give us some background on where you're from originally and when you realized your gift for music.
BRADD MARQUIS: I'm originally from Trenton, NJ and I live in New Jersey now. But I've lived in a lot of different places like the Midwest, New York, all of those spots and down south for a little bit. I've been singing all my life. There wasn't a time I can remember not singing. I come from that traditional Gospel family when folks just threw you in the children's choir when you were four or five years old and you just figured it out. So that was my upbringing until I was about twelve. I took a break from music for a while and did teenage things like sports and things of that nature. In my late teens and early twenties I found my way back to music and decided it was something that I wanted to pursue as a career.
TERRANCE: Who were your musical influences early on?
BRADD MARQUIS: There were a lot, because like I said, I come from a family of musicians. A family of singers from my grandparents down. My grandmother had ten kids and all of them sanged. I was the first born grandchild and so I felt like I got everybody's superpowers *laughs*. My family, aunts and uncles were my favorite singers growing up, honestly, and they introduced me to a lot of the Marvin Gaye's and Luther Vandross', Keith Washington, Teddy P, Glenn Jones and Howard Hewett. It was a gamut of people that they played throughout the home and obviously there was Gospel like Commissioned, The Soul Stirrers and all of those. My grandma had one of those homes that always had the radio on, so everything just came on across the radio.
TERRANCE: Talk about your tour that's going on and what the people could expect.
BRADD MARQUIS: Well, it's the music of Sam Cooke starring Bradd Marquis, me. It came about in 2009, actually that far back. I was coming off of an acting residency and I didn't want to sit around and wait for someone to call me. I didn't want to stand in line and audition. I really wanted to jump right into it and continue with the momentum that I had built at the time. I was sitting at a friend's house and she gave me a book called Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke which is his autobiography story and she was like, oh you look like Sam Cooke. I had heard that through producers previously and they wanted me to record Sam Cooke's songs but things didn't work out in those areas, but she gave me the book, I read the book and I fell in love and when I started doing research, I realized a lot of this stuff, my grandparents were playing in the house, I just didn't know it was Sam Cooke. I just didn't know it was The Soul Stirrers. So, I emerged myself in everything Sam Cooke for three months. Every video I could find, every image, every mannerism, every story I could find and I saw so much of myself in Sam Cooke's story. In the very first show I would sing half of Sam Cooke's songs and half of my songs and just try to bridge and paint the picture of how his life and my life were similar. As the years have gone on, this show has evolved pretty much like the music business every few years. It has evolved into something else and now I just sing his songs. I tell his story and we create and transport you back into the late 1950's, early 60's.
TERRANCE: What do you hope people who attend the show learn about Sam Cooke that they might not know?
BRADD MARQUIS: Interesting. Well, it's so multi-layered because the second biggest joy in the show is when I do meet and greet and see mom and dad have brung grandma and grandpa and their son and daughter. So, three generations of individuals are there watching the show and enjoying it together. Mom and dad probably brought grandma because grandma lived through it and it's nostalgic and now she's feeling like she's seventeen or eighteen again listening to Sam Cooke's music. The son and daughter are there getting a history lesson and getting introduced to a pioneer of not only Soul and R&B music, but he set the template for record labels and how artists move forward, even for indie artists to do this day. He set the template all the way back to the late 50's, early 60's, because he was one of the few, if not the only artist to own his own record label, own his own publishing, own his own music, things of that nature. So, he set the groundwork for Motown and Bad Boy and all these other record labels that we have today and the artist-entrepreneur, you can attribute a lot of that introductory to Sam Cooke as well, in addition to his activism and "A Change Is Gonna Come" which was the backdrop and soundtrack to the Civil Rights Movement. Him championing just self-love like adopting the afro and embracing his blackness versus trying to assimilate in some kind of way. So, it's multi-layered and we touch on all of these things throughout the show just for folks to see and take ownership of our identity and self-love, love and unity towards each other and hopefully set groundworks for just growth in the world.
TERRANCE: Your new single "Blowin' In the Wind" comes is out. What inspired you to record and cover that particular song?
BRADD MARQUIS: It's funny, because we actually did a tour last year and the last show on the tour was in New Jersey, so I took that opportunity to just pull out all of the stops. So, I got my videography team to come in and shoot it. We recorded the audio of the whole show. We didn't have any intention of putting anything out, but when we heard it, we were like, oh sh*t. It's something and I hope the world at some point gets a chance to hear it, but it has a mood, a vibe and an energy around it that needs to be heard. So, "Blowin' In the Wind" was the song that we kind of migrated to. Not to say it was the best song we performed that night, but it is one of my favorite songs and I think it still speaks to this day of what we're experiencing in America and the world. It's something that I felt needed to be heard socially. It's actually a Bob Dylan song, but Sam Cooke covered it because he felt it spoke so closely to the experience black and brown Americans were experiencing during the Civil Rights Movement.
TERRANCE: So, what's next for Bradd Marquis?
BRADD MARQUIS: Hopefully we can get the Sam Cooke stuff out there to the world, so the world can be re-introduced to Sam Cooke and his music and hear his music re-imagined for today. And hopefully we can get this show on Broadway man. As far as my own personal Bradd Marquis music, hopefully after this run and we've exhausted the Sam Cooke stuff for the time-being, I would love to go back in the studio with my team that I have now that helped me put together the Sam Cooke stuff and we could produce a Bradd Marquis album on the same level if not better.
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